August 26, 2015 — Every August 26th Catalyst is proud to celebrate Women’s Equality Day, a date selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which guaranteed US women the right to vote. This year we are fighting for equality by continuing to highlight stories of pay inequity.
This year, we decided to go beyond the numbers and invite real women to discuss pay inequity in their own words. Since April we’ve shared multiple accounts of real-life pay discrimination; below are another two. We are sorry to say there are many more where these came from.
For these women and thousands like them, the gender pay gap is not a talking point; it’s a real problem that has profoundly affected their lives.
Pay cut vs. payout
I was working toward a second bachelor's degree in my early 20s and took a job at a local retail outlet to help make ends meet. I began working the overnight shift during the holidays to supplement my income and ended up staying on afterward, eventually moving into regular fulI-time day and evening hours.
My boss made the switchover conditional on my taking a pay cut, and since I had just quit my other job and was supporting my then-boyfriend, who had recently been fired, I agreed. The only other seasonal employee the outlet kept on was a white guy named Corey who was maybe a few years older than I was and had previously worked as a cop. I found out pretty quickly that he hadn't been asked to take a pay cut.
When I confronted my boss about it, his excuse was that he was paying Corey extra due to his policing experience—even though Corey was doing the exact same job I was and had no more to do with security or loss prevention than I did.
After about seven months and a promotion, I received a raise back to what my pay rate had been as a new hire, which, of course, was what Corey had been making all along.
Even though it was just a temporary retail job and not somewhere I ever intended to stay long-term, it still burns me up.
—Ashley Patrick, Writer, Brooklyn, NY
Through working on my departmental budget, I discovered that a male coworker who occupied the same role as I did was making 11% more, and that my male predecessor had made much more.
I could only suppress my anger for so long before I calmly and professionally told my bosses and HR that I knew about this inequity and requested equal pay for myself, and asked that they address pay inequality for the whole organization. I acknowledged that I could have asked for more when I was hired, but argued that it would have been ethical to correct me, knowing that it’s unclear what to expect in terms of salary when transitioning to nonprofit work.
My immediate boss apologized and said she would help. Her male boss said, “Are you accusing us of being sexist?...I have a wife and daughters…We have women in top positions…You and [your coworker] are not doing equal work!”
Oh, the things I said and could have said. But I wasn’t fired. My coworker agreed that he and I did equal work, which gave me the confidence I needed to proceed.
Whether it was because I asked or because it was the height of the Occupy movement, the organization investigated and announced to staff that wage inequity existed and that they were giving raises to certain people to even things out.
—Omyra*, formerly publishing production manager at a Massachusetts-based nonprofit; currently a publishing freelancer
*Name changed at subject’s request
Stay tuned for more stories from women who’ve experienced pay inequity firsthand.
How has the pay gap affected you? Please share your experiences in the space below!